Sarah Stevenson’s topsy-turvy day ended on a high note as she won Britain’s first Olympic taekwondo medal by taking bronze in the over-67kg competition in Beijing today (Saturday).
The Team GB taekwondo player beat Egypt’s Noha Abd Rabo 5-1 in the bronze medal contest – despite carrying an ankle injury she sustained in the semi-final.
Earlier in the competition she was judged to have lost to China’s double Olympic champion Chen Zhong in the quarter-finals, only for that decision to be reversed on appeal.
But 25-year-old Stevenson, competing at her third Olympic Games, then lost her semi-final to Mexico’s Maria del Rosario Espinoza to book a bronze medal contest through the repechage.
Stevenson dominated her final competition of the Games, turning a 1-0 advantage at the end of the first round into a 4-0 lead at the end of round two.
The hard work done, she ran out 5-1 winner to collect Britain’s first taekwondo medal.
“It was a really tough match,” she said. “I’m really injured from the semi against Maria del Rosariao Espinoza, so she (Abd Rabo) really pushed me hard and she didn’t give up. She’s tough and she’ll have her time one day.
“I’ve really enjoyed today, but they made it tough for me. The decision change was hard because I didn’t have enough time to be 100 per cent ready for the semi-final, but I got it together for the bronze medal fight.
“It means a lot to go through all that and come away with something,” she added. “I’ve been to three Olympic Games and have one medal. Even though it’s not the gold I believe I was good enough to win, I’m really pleased with the bronze considering the way the day went.
“If I’m still around in 2012 I’ll definitely be going for gold in London,” she added, “For the past year everything has been focussed on today and I’m looking forward to enjoying this moment and then heading home to relax and go on holiday.”
So Stevenson returns home with a bronze medal – Team GB’s 46th medal of the Games – and the knowledge the she had beaten Chen.
Gary Hall, Team GB Team Leader, said praised Chinese officials – and Chen – for backing Team GB’s appeal. “It was sportsman like conduct to overturn it and do justice.
“I have to take my hat off to her (Chen). She is twice Olympic champion, and yet she gave it up like that. She felt the kick in her face. It was clear and non-debatable.”
Yang Jin Suk, Secretary General of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), said “The WTF approached the Chinese Federation to let them know what we were going to do and about the possible outcome of the decision.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the response I received from the Chinese Federation. The response was – we as a host country also believe in sportsmanship and we are willing to accept any outcome of the decision.
“It was the first time in the history of Olympic taekwondo that a result was reversed. After a review of the protest application, as well as the video, it was very clear that the British player was the winner.”
Zhao Lei, Secretary General of the Chinese Taekwondo Federation, said: “After the British team lodged a protest with the competition supervisory board, the World Taekwondo Federation approached us and told us they might change the result.
“As it (the initial decision) is an obvious mistake and we are the hosting country, we wanted to show sporting spirit and we agreed to change the result.”